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What I Did Last Summer: Rana Begum

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The London based artist Rana Begum on exploring museums with her children — and why she escaped the city for the woodlands last summer 

The kids and I love going to festivals; they are both very creative and musically-inclined. The previous year, we went to Latitude Festival in Suffolk, and this summer, we made a trip to the Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire. It took place in a secluded woodland setting – a short 2 hours drive from our home in London – which made it the perfect break from city life. There was plenty of music, theatre, art, and comedy, but the reason I had booked was to listen to Letters Live, where actors, musicians, writers, and other celebrities read out famous historical letters. It was funny because the kids and I were so exhausted from staying up late the previous night that we ended up missing it. But it was a great experience overall, especially with the camping, now that they are old enough to put up their own tents.

For most of the summer, I was busy working. I went to Sweden to recce for a public art project at the Wanås Konst Foundation, who support site-specific art and learning. Wanås has an incredible sculpture park, an art gallery, and miles of open space, bringing art and nature together in a really unique way. I spent most of my time walking around, getting inspired by the location, and looking at the collection. Being surrounded by woodland and countryside was beautiful, but most of all, I loved seeing the art that was embedded in the landscape. I was moved by the work of Jenny Holzer, who had engraved powerful little quotes into a 20-metre-long stone wall. My children and I walked around reading out these proverbs and maxims: “A relaxed man is not necessarily a better man,” said one stone, “All things are delicately interconnected,” spoke another. Another project the kids really liked was Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree, located in an orchard of apple trees. We each made a wish and tied it to a branch with a piece of string. I also found the exhibition Not A Single Story II particularly touching. Santiago Mostyn’s film SUEDI (Slow Wave) on the mass migration of refugees, had tears running down my cheeks; it was truly incredible.

Soon after, we ended up going to Copenhagen in Denmark where I met up with some artist friends. We took a trip to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, located 25 miles north of the city on the coast of the Baltic sea. The weather was so beautiful that we went for a swim. It hardly ever happens that you visit a museum and find yourself swimming in the sea! Upon returning home to London, I found myself craving to get out of the city again. I feel most creative when I am out in the landscape under beautiful night skies, with fresh air and time to think.

London, 15.12.2019